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tv   Tech Know  Al Jazeera  May 5, 2015 4:00pm-4:31pm EDT

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i'm making a living off of it now. it's pretty awesome. that's how it usually works. >> the magic happens with david getting a paycheck. not bad. thanks for joining us we'll see you online.
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>> the drought takes hold with devastating results but now science fights back. >> it will map the water in earth's soil has the potential to be revolutionary. >> satellites tracking water from above. innovation shows water. >> ok, i'll take your word for it. >> a biologist specializing in evolution. techno investigates the new dust bowl. tonight, beyond science, innovative goggles and the story she'll never forget. >> looks like there's another one. hold on. >> that's our team. now let's do some science.
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>> welcome to techno. we have recently done this drive from l.a. to san francisco. it's beautiful, but in the central valley, you see the farms and signs. >> they basically say no water no jobs. >> california is in a really intense prolonged drought. this is a worldwide thing, all over the globe, there are more extreme weather events. places are getting warmer places are getting drier. it's a pretty big deal. >> we went to central voluntarily to see just how bad it is, what technology can do to maybe help fix it. let's take a look.
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>> we are seeing a period of epic drought the extremes for extreme. it affects all of us. >> we get a satellite view of california's epic drought. >> they're the eye in the sky. >> we get a boots on the ground perspective where once fertile fields have gone to dust. >> my parents were migrant farm workers and then we established our family here in the early 1950's and that's where i grew up learning a lot about farming, especially cantaloupes. >> growing fruits and vegetables has been joe's life work, but this year, a third of his fields will sit unplanted and unproductive. >> our water comes from the u.s. bureau of reclamation and that allocated zero water thousand year. we did not have enough water to plant this field. >> this is california's central
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valley, the world's foot basket. these fertile lands he had feed the nation. california produces nearly half of america's fruits, nuts and vegetables, but without water, these fields because a dust bowl. the impact is widely felt. with nearly 430,000-acres left unplanted and the loss of 17,000 jobs, the drought is costing california $2.2 billion. for the nation, there will be an increase in food prices for years to come. >> if it's dryer, it's going to be a disaster the world has never seen before. >> what will you do then? >> it's scary to think about it. >> dry spells and droughts are common here. bringing water is an engineering feat. twenty reservoirs transfer water to the central valley through
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canals and pumping stations. today, although major reservoirs way below capacity. we went to one to see. >> the san luis reservoir during the period of drought is only 20% full. >> these images show just how depleted some of california's reservoirs are today. these all time low water levels can be seen from space. i visited nasa's propulsion lab where they track water availability. >> we will be seeing more of this in the future and not just california, but across the whole southwestern united states, a more prolonged drought could
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become the no normal here. >> the perspective is unique. you get a holistic view of water storage and how it's stored over time. over the last three years, california has lost 4 trillion gallons of water per year. that is more water than all 38 million people in california use each year. >> what are you seeing with your satellites? >> we are seeing in california the last wet season last winter was dryer than most of the previous dry seasons. >> our wet seasons are so dry, they're worse than a dry season. >> that's unbelievable. >> it is. >> much of the united states has been in drought for the last 15 years, but what california is experiencing i go exceptional drought, the most intense
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categorization. satellite generates impressive data that not only backs what we see on the ground but shows a dangerous tipping point. >> economically, what's that going to do to california? >> it's going to have a big impact on the agriculture industry, of course. we need water to grow food. that will ripple through the united states economy. >> nasa's other aerial mission is taking flight above the sierra nevada mountain, a vital source of california's water supply. the news isn't good. less snow in the winter means less water in the spring and summer. according to the california department of water resources, the snow pack is at its lowest levels since 1988. >> tell me, why is snow important? >> snow is really a critical resource. >> tom painter is a snow scientist and director of snow optics lab. >> we are focused on understands
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the?"-water equivalent. >> how do you measure that? >> we developed the air snow observatory, the combination of a speck from at her to measure sunlight being absorbed by the snow pack and a scanning high frequent wednesday laser pointer that measures snow depth. the instruments look out this hole in the belly of the plane. the snow pack is a reservoir of water. it snows up there, stays up there until the spring, which is about the time that we're using it for agriculture, for municipal use, so there's this nice handoff of water so water can come out of the reservoir and be backfilled by the snow melt, and that information then is fed to water managers. it gives them an idea of the forecast for the coming weeks. >> the forecast isn't good. the lack of significant snowfall is just one issue scientists must deal with.
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the other is man made. >> dust and black carbon coming from industrialization accelerates snow melts in ways we haven't understood previously. >> here at the snow optics lab science activities gather snow samples and measure for dust and black carbon. >> dust and black carbon are drastically accelerating snow melt. >> at the end of the mission you end up with a map like this. what am i looking at? >> this map gives us instantaneous snapshot, key to optimizing the reservoir. >> the computer technology is built to map models. >> you
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are changing the way water is managed. >> it's critical to the economy, water culture. >> satellite images indicate ground water depletion. when surface water from precipitation is scarce, farmers drill for ground water. back in the central valley, we met up with a team from the u.s. geological survey who are keeping on eye on the some rinking aquifers. >> i have not seen this many wells needing to be drilled or heard of this many wells going dry. >> claudia is a hydrologist. >> is it completely unrealistic to think of these deep level aquifers at just an unlimited resource? >> we are lowering the water levels lower than historic lows,
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taking more out than recharging the system. >> there is more than the immediate impact of all this well digging, land subsidence. >> it is the lowering of the land surface. >> michelle tracks how much is occurring and where. >> this is a canal. as subsidence occurs, the road lowers, the water is starting to run into part of the bridge. >> the water is veering this way. >> the water's going this way and all of these items are shoved up against the bridge instead of flowing underneath the bridge if there was space between the water surface and bridge. >> you can see that. >> most alarming is that subsidence permanently changing an aquifer's ability to hold water. >> it can hold less water than it did before subsidence. that is forever. that is permanent. >> coming up on tech know, using the sun to turn waste water into
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liquid gold. >> ok. >> we want to hear what you think about these stories. join the conversation by joining us on
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>> believe it or not, this is one of the world's most productive agricultural regions, california's central valley. as you can see, it's suffering from a drought of epic proportions. >> the state of california is grabbling with its third year of drought in a row, and farmers have been the first to feel its devastating effects. drive through the central valley, and their anger and bitterness is visible. dennis is manager of the water district. it's his job to figure out how to supply water to 38,000-acres are farmland.
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>> never in our wildest dreams did we think we'd be looking at a 0% water fly. >> when president obama visited in february, a farmer stressed the wider impact of california's agricultural losses. >> my pitch to him was that california agriculture is important, it's important to the whole nation, as we pass a tractor that was parked out in the field, i said mr. president, do you know where this tractor comes from? he said john deere we love it in illinois. >> i said we're creating jobs in illinois when we buy a tractor and during a drought, we don't buy tractors. >> with the drought not likely to end soon, there is an urgent need for solutions. nasa says new water based satellite missions will help farmers strategize and max i'm crops.
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>> it is a mission that will map the water and earth's soil. just the water in the upper few centimeters of the land. every few days we get a global update. that is important for agriculture and a number of other applications. it has the potential to be revolutionary. >> water districts are looking into local solutions. here, the team is looking to tap into a new resource, underground drainage water, naturally occurring salts, seleniums make it unif it for human consumption. >> our goal is to take this water and turn it into a productive resource. >>
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>> desal nation removes salt and minerals from brackish water. it is often very energy jump tensive. here they've built a desal nation plant that works on solar energy. >> we can use the sun to reduce the amount of fuel or electricity. that's very, very important from an overall solution. >> the most prominent feature is this 377-foot long array of mirrors. >> we're using this large mirror to capture the heat. the sun light is right field here. >> mineral oil travels do you know central tube and heated by the sun to 248 degrees. the heat is then piped into evaporators and steam generated. fresh water is condensed from
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the steam and salt and other minerals removed in the process. >> what percentage of the water is purified? >> we can go to 93% water recovery. >> is 93% a typical amount of recovery? >> no, it's very high. that's what makes this process different from traditional sea water desalination which operates at 50% recovery. >> wow. >> this recovered water is safe enough to drink. >> i hope it's not that i to have try. >> no, this is the salty water and the water we're producing, you can see is very clear, and doesn't have salt in it. >> ok, i'll take your word for it. >> how does it taste? >> very earthy. >> even though we haven't added any chemicals that you would add for municipal drink watering it's absolutely safe. that's the whole point, we can
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make clean drinking water just using the sun. >> plans are made to add more mirrors. when it's completed, they'll process 2 million gallons of fresh water per day. >> one of our biggest challenges is to think farmers to think that desal nicing is a way to get clean water. >> water is going to become our future gold. >> i think we'll see a number of new satellite missions being launched at nasa. we'll have a much better three dimensional picture 10 years from now. that would be great information for water management. once we understand how much water is available
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to us as snow, and is accessible in streams and reservoirs and ground water, it gives me great hope thinking about moving forward to the next decade. >> for farmers, hope goes hand-in-hand that with water. >> i can't imagine anything losing itself in this. >> it transforms itself with water. it becomes completely different and is very rich soil. last we're we had craps growing here. we're going to plant it again. >> you think so? >> all it takes is water. >> one thing that always stood out to me, if we're out of cabbage on this coast, get it from the east coast. out of oil, get it from the middle east. you're out of water, you're just out of water. >> it's infrastructure as well as implementing science and technical advances, but that relies on legislation to be done firstly. >> that's the thing.
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there's now with science as we saw, i mean, we're collecting huge amounts of data but the question is how do we take that kind of data and put it in a form where policy makers and the public can make the right decision. water is such an important issue, but the public often wants to ignore it. it might almost be better to say we're in denial, we'll figure it out, rather than taking it head-on. >> until that's coming out of the tap, most people aren't going to see it asen issue, at least not for them. >> california did pass some water management legislation but we won't see impacts for 10 years, so there's work to do. we're going to take a second look at one story that impacted you personally the most. >> that's right, it's a little personal behind the scenes tour, one of my favorite stories where we looked at
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>> we're here to fully get into the nuances of everything that's going on not just in this country but around the world. >> ...as if there were no cameras here, would be the best solution. >> this goes to the heart of the argument >> to tell you the stories that others won't cover. how big do you see this getting? getting the news from the people who are affected. >> people need to demand reform... >> we're here to provide the analysis... the context... and the reporting that allows you to make sense of your world. >> ali velshi on target only on al jazeera america
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behind the scenes look at one of your favorite pieces you've done on goggles that can see cancer. >> it must have been an extra treat, because it's featuring a technique in your field. >> i do have a personal connection to the story. the detection method for the cancer uses fluorescents which i did for my p.h.d. let's take a look. >> so the cancer goggle story was about goggles similar tonight vision goggles, but allows surgeons to use infrared to see cancer cells. my thesis title was fluorescents. i studied nicotine dependence looking for something that i was going to help make a difference. the data that came from my experiments will inform drug
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companies to design better smoking cessation designs. >> the first thing we're going to do is find the lymph node and that fluorescent dye is going to be visible. >> this is a 72-year-old woman who noticed a lurch and had a biopsy that she'd breast cancer. today we're going to do a lumpectomy and biopsy. where's our ultraviolet light now? >> this story had me standing at the elbow of a surgeon as she was using fluorescents to identify which him of nodes in a human patient were cancerous for excision. the doctor was so gracious with us, especially during the
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surgery and comfortable kind of talking through the procedure. >> what we're seeing is the fluorescent dye being taken up where the cancer goes to. i'm going to take that lymph node out. >> i had no idea how i was going to react to the surgery. i was fascinated by the entire process. >> i'll get this lymph node out and i'll show you. this is the bigger one. >> our producer was saying ask her more questions. we were like whispering she kind of looks busy, she's got her hands in a person. >> looks like there's another one. hold on. this other one looks even brighter. >> the removal of the third lymph node which she didn't know she first going to have to do this helped her make a realtime decision. >> the doctor helped develop these goggles where i am wear them comfortable and not feel
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like i'm restricting my movement in any way. >> the doctor is taking an interesting approach to scientific research. the labs that he run is struckured like a bio tech start up. when he found out i had my phd from calendar tech and the work i had done was with fluorescents, he got really excited, and then we couldn't stop talking. to be able to see a type of scientific technique curing cancer or reducing number of surgeries for a cancer patient that's really the ultimate goal, so it was very rewardling. >> i know this is your field, so you know a lot about this stuff. i'm curious, where is this going? what are the potential applications for the technique. >> for this specifically, this fluorescent detection of cancer,
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we need to expand our tool kid so we can identify many different types of cancer. right now, this technique is still experimental, being used only for breast cancer and skill cancer but that's not all there is out there. because cancer cells look so different, getting specific with that fluorescent dye is going to be a real challenge. >> do you think it will become standard? >> we hope so. they are comparing the use of fluorescents to the standard of care. i would love to see that practice a understand then they're comfortable as they see it now. >> seems like droughts are bad cancers bad for us, but science comes i understand an bright minds to the rescue and it's so much fun exploring these and discussing them with both of you. >> that's the power of science understanding science and scientific topics help you understand your world and find innovative solutions to your problems. >> check with us next time here on tech know.
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>> dive deep into these stories at aljazeera.com/techknow. follow us on twitter, facebook, google plus and more. >> this week on "talk to al jazeera": international piano superstar lang lang. >> the art, you know, it's about, you know... the distance and in and out, big picture, precision. >> billions of people around the world have seen him perform. at the beijing olympics... the world cup in rio... even jaming at the grammys. >> as a musician we will collaborate with great musicians.